Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English



First Advisor

David Faflik


Works of sword-and-sorcery fantasy often have the reputation of reproducing “traditional masculinity” through figures of heroism that embody a stoic, self-reliant and self-righteous machismo. They are similarly regarded as presenting stereotypical femininity as emotional, dependent, and delicate. These assumptions prevent sword-and-sorcery fantasy works from receiving the critical examination that the genre warrants. This genre is critically underutilized despite its unique capacity and bountiful potential to channel and redirect cultural expectations of gender roles and social norms. Sword-and-sorcery texts often reflect the patriarchal structures of reality, but they can also challenge and subvert those same structures. Sword-and-sorcery can be a genre of possibilities. This study examines the unconfined sense of place and time found in specific sword-and-sorcery settings as well as the transgressive and transformative personae of specific sword-and-sorcery heroes regardless of their sexuality, gender, or race. While many sword-and-sorcery tales conform to gender categories, they also have the capacity to shatter stereotypes of the real world in the limitless potential of such fantasy worlds.

In order to investigate the ways in which some sword-and-sorcery works reflect white supremacist masculinism of reality while others challenge hegemonic patriarchy, this study examines the works of three prominent authors of the genre: Robert E. Howard, Catherine Lucille Moore, and Samuel R. Delany. Each author is responsible for episodic figures of sword-and-sorcery heroism in Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian, Moore’s Jirel of Joiry, and Delany’s Gorgik the Liberator. This study finds that specific sword-and-sorcery works gesture supremacist masculinism. These works exemplify a capacity for messaging meaning beyond traditional gendered assumptions of the genre and advance transgressive figures of gendered and genrefied heroism including expressions of male femininity and female masculinity.



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